Henry Spencer: The Defector

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details


Ant Law (g)
Andrew Robb (b)
David Ingamells (d)
Henry Spencer (t, flhn)
Matt Robinson (p, el p)


AMP Music & Records


Media Format:



Rec. date not stated

Henry Spencer has ploughed his own furrow, at once thoroughly connected with, and set apart from, the rest of the UK jazz scene. His 2017 debut attracted attention for its sweepingly epic, listener-friendly take on jazz-rock: subsequent EP and single releases have continued to explore this territory, and his latest album delivers the most fully developed version yet.

Emotionally and stylistically we’re in a similar area to Snarky Puppy, Christian Scott Atunde Ajuah, or even the alt-indie of Bon Iver - there’s a general mood of intense uplift: themes are folkish rather than boppish, and the direct accessibility of the super tight, carefully plotted rhythm arrangements makes their intricacy seem totally natural and easily palatable.

Matt Robinson’s florid, rhapsodic keyboards provide the settings for Spencer’s trumpet and flugelhorn, which are at the centre of every tune, rather like a lead singer in a rock band: Ant Law gets some space to cut loose with a typically diffuse, pyrotechnical solo in ‘Undone’ and a brief but lovely spot on the super melodic ‘Here (For Chicca)’ but elsewhere provides more textural support with carefully constructed arpeggios and ostinatos: Ingamells and Robb are as tight, powerful and flexible as can be.

Additional strings and synth textures add to the overall magnitude, but Spencer’s wonderful playing is always front and centre: super accurate, clear-toned, fast and gymnastic when required but never sacrificing lyricism to complexity. It’s big music that demands a big setting - major festival stages and theatres with awesome light shows beckon: this record has the ambition and the ability to deliver.

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